Caitlin MacNeal

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.

Articles by Caitlin

President Donald Trump on Thursday morning distanced himself from the federal investigation into the business dealings of his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, claiming that he knows “nothing” about Cohen’s business practices and that Cohen represented him in only a “fraction” of his legal matters.

“I don’t know his business, but this doesn’t have to do with me. Michael is a businessman. He’s got a business. He also practices law. I would say probably the big thing is his business, and they’re looking at something having to do with his business,” Trump said during a lengthy phone interview with “Fox and Friends.” “I have nothing to do with his business, I can tell you.”

Asked about Cohen’s work representing him, Trump claimed that Cohen only handled “a tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work.

“I have many attorneys,” Trump said.

“He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” the President continued, referencing Cohen’s payment to Daniels and work negotiating a hush agreement with the porn actress. “You know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this, which would have been a problem.”

Trump also shrugged off Cohen’s decision to plead the Fifth Amendment in the civil case filed by Daniels against him. During the campaign, Trump criticized Hillary Clinton staffers who pleaded the Fifth Amendment in the email probe.

“Because he has got other things. He has businesses,” Trump answered on “Fox and Friends” when asked why Cohen is pleading the Fifth. “I hope he’s in great shape. But he has got businesses, and his lawyers probably told him to do that. But I’m not involved.”

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White House physician Ronny Jackson withdrew as the nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday amid mounting scrutiny of his past behavior.

In a statement announcing his withdrawal, Jackson denied the allegations about his conduct but said that the attention created a “distraction.”

“The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated. If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this President and the important issue we must be addressing – how we give the best care to our nation’s heroes.”

Jackson’s withdrawal as the VA nominee followed new allegations surfaced by Democrats on Wednesday afternoon. A report from Democrats in Congress included allegations that Jackson was prone to excessive drinking, crashed a government vehicle while drunk, prescribed medication without knowledge of patients’ medical history and mistreated his employees. Before the new report surfaced Wednesday, he was already facing allegations of drinking on the job and doling out prescription medications “like they were candy.”

In his Thursday morning statement, Jackson said he did not expect such scrutiny.

“Going into this process, I expected tough questions about how to best care for our veterans, but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity,” he said. “In my role as a doctor, I have tirelessly worked to provide excellent care for all my patients. In doing so, I have always adhered to the highest ethical standards.”

Up until Jackson’s withdrawal on Thursday morning, the White House defended its choice to lead the VA. Wednesday morning, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley touted Jackson’s credentials in a statement defending the nominee. On Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the administration’s background investigation of Jackson, insisting that he “received more vetting than most nominees.”

Yet after the new allegations surfaced Wednesday afternoon, both Jackson and President Donald Trump began to consider more seriously whether Jackson should withdraw, according to reports from CNN and the Washington Post.

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A lawyer representing MSNBC host Joy Reid said Wednesday night that the FBI is investigating whether Reid’s blog was hacked.

“We have received confirmation the FBI has opened an investigation into potential criminal activities surrounding several online accounts, including personal email and blog accounts, belonging to Joy-Ann Reid. Our own investigation and monitoring of the situation will continue in parallel, and we are cooperating with law enforcement as their investigation proceeds,” attorney John H. Reichman said in a statement provided to TPM by MSNBC.

Reid’s team has alleged that newly surfaced homophobic blog posts were the result of a hack and were not actually written by Reid herself. The Internet Archive, the group that hosts the archive of Reid’s defunct blog, says that they did not find any evidence that their archived versions of Reid’s blog posts were tampered with. However, a cybersecurity expert working for Reid said that he found indications that her blog was tampered with in some way.

An MSNBC spokesperson said Wednesday that Reid will remain on air while any law enforcement investigations unfold and said that the network will let such an investigation play out, suggesting that the network itself is not reviewing the matter at this time.

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As scrutiny over his behavior as White House physician increased on Wednesday, Ronny Jackson began to consider withdrawing as the nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, two White House officials with knowledge of Jackson’s deliberations told the Washington Post.

The report that Jackson’s resolve was wavering came after Democrats released new allegations that Jackson was prone to excessive drinking and once crashed a government vehicle, wrote prescriptions without asking patients about their medical history, and mistreated those that worked for him. However, Jackson was considering stepping aside as the nominee before the new report surfaced, according to the Washington Post.

Jackson denied the allegation that he crashed a government vehicle while drunk on Wednesday evening and told reporters he would press on in the confirmation process. Yet behind closed doors, he has gone back and forth on whether he should pull out as the nominee or move forward and defend himself, per the Washington Post.

The White House defended Jackson throughout the day on Wednesday, touting his accomplishments as a military doctor and insisting that he had been properly vetted by the administration.

However, the new allegations on Wednesday afternoon left President Donald Trump and some aides in the White House less certain that the administration should continue to stand behind Jackson, CNN reported. Trump has started mulling out loud whether Jackson should take his name out of the running to lead the VA “before things get worse,” and aides in the White House have started preparing for the possibility that Jackson could withdraw, according to CNN.

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A spokesperson for MSNBC said on Wednesday that host Joy Reid will remain on air amid questions about homophobic posts that surfaced earlier this week on her now-defunct blog.

Reid has claimed she did not write the posts and that her team told law enforcement in December that they believe the blog was hacked.

Asked by TPM about Reid’s status, and about about whether MSNBC is conducting its own investigation, an MSNBC spokesperson, who asked to remain anonymous, noted that Reid’s team alerted the authorities and said that the network would let that process play out.

The newly surfaced blog posts that appeared to be written by Reid caused a stir this week. Reid apologized in December for past homophobic blog posts, but additional posts from the same time period surfaced on Monday. One declared that “most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing.”

The Internet Archive, which hosts the archive of Reid’s former blog, said Tuesday that it did not find any evidence that its archive was hacked. In response, MSNBC circulated a statement from a cybersecurity expert working for Reid, who argued that a hack had occurred.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders grew agitated with CNN’s Jim Acosta on Wednesday as he peppered her with questions about embattled Veterans Affairs nominee Dr. Ronny Jackson.

Acosta began his line of questioning by asking about President Donald Trump’s comment Tuesday that there’s an “experience problem” with Jackson as he faces Senate confirmation. Acosta asked Sanders if it was fair to say Jackson lacks the proper experience to run the VA.

“That’s not what the President said. I think you’re taking some of his words out of context. I know you don’t appreciate when people take your words out of context. I’d appreciate it if you not do that to the President,” Sanders replied. “He said that had been one of the questions people had posed about him.”

The CNN reporter later asked if the Trump administration is a champion of the free press, referencing Sanders comment that context is important.

“We support a free press but we also for a fair press,” Sanders told Acosta.

When Acosta jumped in to ask if Trump has a responsibility to provide proper context, Sanders ignored the question and lamented that reporters ask questions “in a tone that’s completely unnecessary, unneeded, and frankly doesn’t help further the conversation or help the American people get any more information in a better way.”

“I’m going to move on,” Sanders then said.

Acosta tried to ask a question once more, but Sanders cut him off.

“Jim, I’m finished here.”

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson will propose changes to the country’s affordable housing program that would raise rents on low-income Americans and impose work requirements on those using subsidies, according a report out Wednesday afternoon from the Washington Post.

Currently, tenants pay 30 percent of their adjusted income toward rent, but under the new HUD plan, tenants would pay 35 percent of their gross income or 35 percent of their earnings from 15 hours per week at a minimum wage job, according to the Washington Post. Residents would have to pay three times more than the current minimum, the Post calculated.

The plan from Carson would also eliminate deductions tenants receive for medical and child care costs, per the Washington Post.

The proposal from Carson would need approval from Congress to be enacted. Carson plans to announce the proposal later on Wednesday, according to the Washington Post.

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White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will hold the daily press briefing on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Watch live:

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After a new batch of homophobic blog posts that appear to be written by liberal MSNBC host Joy Reid surfaced on Monday, Reid claimed that she was a victim of a hack.

MSNBC in turn promoted Reid’s claims that she was hacked, sending reporters a statement and letter from Reid’s lawyer claiming that her blog had been hacked.

Reid first addressed past homophobic comments on her old blog in December, when the first batch of posts were surfaced by Twitter user @Jamie_Maz. At the time, Reid apologized for the posts. But when @Jamie_Maz surfaced new homophobic posts from that same time period on Monday, Reid claimed she was hacked.

“In December I learned that an unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog, The Reid Report, to include offensive and hateful references that are fabricated and run counter to my personal beliefs and ideology,” Reid said in a statement to Mediaite on Monday, adding that she has been working with a cybersecurity expert and had contacted law enforcement.

The Internet Archive, the group that runs the Wayback Machine and held the archives of Reid’s old blog, responded on Tuesday and said they found no indication that the Wayback Machine versions of Reid’s blog posts were tampered with. The Internet Archive ran its review of the posts after Reid’s attorneys asked for the posts to be removed and indicated they had been hacked at Reid’s blog or in the Wayback Machine.

“When we reviewed the archives, we found nothing to indicate tampering or hacking of the Wayback Machine versions. At least some of the examples of allegedly fraudulent posts provided to us had been archived at different dates and by different entities,” the Internet Archive wrote in a blog post. “We let Reid’s lawyers know that the information provided was not sufficient for us to verify claims of manipulation.”

The Internet Archive added that after they declined to remove the posts, the archives disappeared due to an action carried out by an unauthorized third party.

Following the Internet Archive’s pushback, MSNBC circulated a statement from a cybersecurity consultant working for Reid, Jonathan Nichols. He claimed that the login information for Reid’s blog “was available on the Dark Web and that fraudulent entries — featuring offensive statements — were entered with suspicious formatting and time stamps.” He said that Reid’s attorney wrote to Archive.org about the posts in December but said that Reid “at no time claimed that the Wayback Machine was hacked.” He also said he believes some of the posts circulated recently were never on the blog, “suggesting that these instances may be the result of screenshot manipulation.”

The archives of Reid’s old posts no longer appear to be available. Posts reviewed by the Washington Post included comments speculating that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was gay and a post claiming that “most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing.”

The newly surfaced blog posts and Reid’s response drew skepticism and criticism on Tuesday. The LGBT advocacy group PFLAG National announced on Tuesday that it rescinded its plan to give Reid its Straight for Equality in Media award this year.

“When we extended our invitation to Ms. Reid to honor her at our 45th anniversary celebration, we did so knowing about the blog posts from the late 2000s regarding Charlie Crist. We appreciated how she stepped up, took ownership, apologized for them, and did better—this is the behavior and approach we ask of any ally. However, in light of new information, and the ongoing investigation of that information, we must at this time rescind our award to Ms. Reid,” PFLAG National president Jean Hodges said in a statement.

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Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House’s Office of Budget and Management, told banking officials on Tuesday that while he was a congressman, he had a policy of only talking to lobbyists who donated to his campaign, the New York Times reported.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mulvaney said at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington, D.C., according to the New York Times. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

Mulvaney, who also serves as the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, added that his main priority as a congressman was his constituents.

“If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions,” he said, per the New York Times.

When asked about Mulvaney’s comments about lobbyists, Mulvaney spokesman John Czwartacki told the New York Times, “He was making the point that hearing from people back home is vital to our democratic process and the most important thing our representatives can do. It’s more important than lobbyists and it’s more important than money.”

During the speech, Mulvaney also urged members of the banking industry to support his legislative proposals to curb the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s power.

Read the New York Times’ full report here.

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It's Lonely In The Minority

Now that they’re in the minority, this is the press corps covering House Republicans…